Gwyneth Olsen - Winemaker and General Manager at Briar Ridge....It's an appointment that has proved to be not only an important asset to Briar Ridge and its members but also for the young talent pool of the Hunter Valley in general.
Talented winemaker Gwyneth Olsen joined Briar Ridge as their new winemaker two years ago with the 2014 vintage being the first vintage at Briar Ridge where she was involved in everything to do from the vineyard to the bottle.
Gwyn's enthusiasm for crafting distinct new styles along with the knowledge and experience gained so early in her wine career, has already enabled her to show her individual talents to the full under the premium brand of Briar Ridge.
Established in 1972, Briar Ridge Vineyard is a 5 star winery nestled in the picturesque Mount View region of the Hunter Valley with a reputation for producing excellent wines and winning numerous accolades on both the national and international wine shows circuit.
Raised in Cairns, Gwyn's interest in travel saw her complete a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry at the University of Otago. It was during her final year, while working with fermentation kinetics, that she realised she was never going to make a decent biochemist and decided that making wine seemed like much more fun! This then led to Gwyn studying Oenology at Roseworthy University in Adelaide.
After graduating in 2005, Gwyn worked three vintages in France - St Emillion, Burgundy and Languedoc, which was then followed by 4 years at Villa Maria in New Zealand where she proved herself to be a rising star in the New Zealand wine industry. Gwyn then accepted a role at McWilliams Wines in the pivotal role of building the production across both New Zealand and the Hunter Valley. It was at McWilliams that Gwyn's passion and enthusiasm for wine saw her quickly rise through the ranks and appointed to a senior winemaker role where she continued to gain significant respect in the Hunter Valley wine industry. In 2013 she accepted the position of Chief Winemaker at Briar Ridge and later took on the additional role of General Manager.
Building on her already well established reputation for being a world class winemaker, Gwyneth Olsen was also named the 2014 Gourmet Traveller WINE, The Young Winemaker Medal - a fantastic achievement for Gwyn who at just 31 years of age has achieved so much in a relatively short period of time.
''Winning this award was an honour and it left me completely speechless,'' said Gwyn of winning the award. ‘’With so many young winemakers doing so many interesting things and making their mark on the industry, I felt very humbled and privileged to accept the award''.
But it is Gwyn's passion and enthusiasm for Hunter Valley winemaking that has been an inspiration to so many of her colleagues and makes this award such a well-deserved acknowledgment of her talent.
Whilst it is still a male-dominated industry, these days being a female winemaker is unlikely to raise eyebrows - but this was not always the case. It may be a $4 billion industry employing around 50,000 people, but just 40 years ago a female working in a winery would have cut a lonely figure. Not so today!
Gwyneth believes that having more women in the industry and employing a mixed-gender winemaking team comes with significant benefits.
"Any time more women move into an industry there's going to be change ... there's a change in approach, a flow of different ideas and a different interpretation of winemaking. It's important to have diversity and balance'' says Gwyn.
Most winemakers have a preference for a particular wine to make and to drink. After four Hunter Valley vintages, Semillon and Shiraz are without a doubt close to Gwyn’s heart, but she does have a real love of Chardonnay.
With three trophies already sitting on the mantle, along with the Young Winemaker Medal, Gwyn continues to enjoy the challenges and opportunities to craft diverse, high quality wines, and to continue to build the iconic Briar Ridge brand - a brand Gwyn likes to describe as ''a symbol of heritage, tradition and quality''. For more information visit www.briarridge.com.au